Ghazal 321x, Verse 5


paidaa nahii;N hai tag-o-taaz-e just-juu
maanind-e mauj-e aab zabaan-e buriidah huu;N

1) it is not brought forth, the root/origin of the exertion/pursuit of searching
2) like a wave of water, I am a cut-off tongue


paidaa honaa : 'To be born; to be created, &c.; to arise, spring up, be produced; to be found'. (Platts p.298) : 'Bottom, root, origin, base, foundation; original, source; an essential, a fundamental principle; essence; element, principle; chief thing, main point, original or old state or condition'. (Platts p.59)


tag-o-taaz : 'Running about in quest of employment or on business; great exertion or effort; close pursuit or search (after); bustle, toil, fatigue; anxiety, care, concern'. (Platts p.332)


just-juu : 'Searching, seeking; search, inquiry, quest, scrutiny, examination, investigation'. (Platts p.381)


It's not known what the original purpose and goal is, of my exertion and running around. My condition is like that of a wave of the ocean-- the way it is running along, and is still searching. But it is like a cut-off tongue; its destination and goal cannot be evident to anyone. In entirely the same way, I too am a cut-off tongue; my condition too is not apparent to anyone.

== Asi, p. 174


A wave is a tongue no doubt (as a metaphor), but it has no relationship with any mouth; thus it is a cut-off tongue. Keeping in view for the exertion/pursuit of searching only the movement of the wave, he has said this; otherwise, a tongue has nothing to do with searching.... In its present condition, the verse is defective in meaning, although it is not entirely meaningless.

== Zamin, p. 255

Gyan Chand:

zabaan buriidah = a silent tongue. But Ghalib has put an i.zaafat on zabaan , and this is a metrical requirement; otherwise, it would have been better without the i.zaafat . A cut-off tongue too is incapable of speech. A wave is used as a simile for the tongue, especially for one that is rising up. In the world I am running around, but what I am searching for is not clear. I am like a wave of water, that continuously moves along but is, like a cut-off tongue, mute. It doesn't tell anyone the secret of where and why it is moving. Perhaps it itself doesn't know. My condition too is just like this-- that is, life is a continuous struggle, but what kind of a struggle we don't know.

== Gyan Chand, p. 281



For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}. See also the overview index.

The first line is a chain of abstract, existential complexities, fascinating but of course uninterpretable. We know we're being set up for something, but we have no idea what-- except that it won't be more of the same.

When we're finally (under mushairah performance conditions) allowed to hear the second line, its radical plainness is as much of a shock as its bizarre, rather grisly claim. Why is the speaker like a 'cut-off tongue', and why is a 'cut-off tongue' like a 'wave of water'? We have to return to the first line for the context. A 'cut-off tongue' cannot express or 'bring forth' [paidaa karnaa] any knowledge-- including knowledge about its own 'root, origin', or its own activities and pursuits. Probably it doesn't even have any such knowledge to begin with. The most it could do would be to waggle or flail around for a bit, before falling silent forever.

Such a zabaan-e buriidah is really a grim amd morbid thing for the speaker to 'be'. Probably that's why Gyan Chand objects to the i.zaafat that forces such a reading; without the i.zaafat , the speaker would be merely a zabaan-buriidah person, someone who has (!) a cut-off tongue. (Given the choice, anyone would rather be a tongueless person than a personless tongue.) And if you think this image is distasteful, compare the 'cut throat' in {322x,6}; then {323x,4} adds a 'cut-off hand'.

The 'wave of water' may be as ignorant about its own 'root, origin' as the cut-off tongue, but its ceaseless, unmotivated activity is natural to it, rather than morbid or grotesque; the wave is not mutilated, and there's no reason to believe that it questions its lot. The only way to create much real similarity to a cut-off tongue is to imagine a single wave, somehow isolated and 'cut off' from the sea, and thus doomed to a quick death. But of course the verse doesn't give us anything more specific than a generalized 'wave of water'.

In short, it's easy to fault the construction of the verse. But still that second line sticks in the mind. It reminds me of Prufrock: 'I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.'